For a brief moment each summer, the gooseberry and
elderflower seasons overlap.
Combined, they taste of rural England: verdant and flowery with a
refreshing sweet sourness. Since I love home-made jellies almost as much as
home-made ice cream, here is my latest recipe, which turns a beautiful
champagne-pink as the gooseberry juice turns pink when cooked.
Elder bushes (
Sambucus nigra) can be found in country lanes and urban car parks, they thrive in
waste ground and hedges.
flower in June and July, blossoming later the further north you travel in
Britain. Never pick elderflowers unless you can safely identify them.
Avoid any growing on the borders of
farmland that might have been subjected to pesticide spray drifting on the
You can freeze elderflowers to flavour food later in the
year, but you must add them frozen to the simmering dish, otherwise they turn
Freeze for a maximum of six
months in small single portion polythene bags.
50ml St-Germain elderflower liqueur or gin (optional)
170g granulated sugar
12g leaf gelatine
When you pick your elderflowers, gently shake the flower
heads to remove any unwanted insect life and lay them carefully in a basket or
bag. Avoid any blossoms that are infested with insect life or past their best.
Once home, dip the freshly picked elderflowers into a large
bowl of cool water.
and then leave to dry slightly on paper towelling.
If freezing, place the whole sprays in plastic bags.
Otherwise, snip off the larger green
stems and place in a non-corrosive saucepan with 4 tablespoons water and the
need to top and tail the gooseberries for this recipe.
Cover the saucepan and set over a medium low heat.
Stir regularly until the gooseberries
release lots of juice. Once they start to bubble, after about 15 minutes,
reduce the heat to low and simmer for a further 10 minutes or until they’ve
collapsed into a soft mush.
Arrange a muslin jelly bag or a fine conical sieve over a
Tip the gooseberries
into the bag or sieve.
Leave for 4
hours or overnight to drip. Measure the juice. You should get around 400ml
Add enough water
to bring it up to 600ml.
So as not to waste the gooseberries, you could squeeze or
push a lot of the remaining gooseberry pulp throw the jelly bag or sieve and
use it for gooseberry syllabub – you’ll get about 150ml.
Don’t add it to the jelly mix, it will
give it a different texture.
Place the gooseberry juice in a clean non-corrosive
Add the sugar, set over
a medium heat and stir occasionally until hot and the sugar has dissolved.
Remove from the heat.
Meanwhile, put the gelatine leaves in a small bowl.
Cover with cold water and leave to soak
for 5 minutes.
Drain and stir into
the hot gooseberry juice. Stir until the gelatine has dissolved.
Add the elderflower liqueur – do not
substitute with elderflower cordial – it has lemon juice in it and will change
the balance of flavours.
gin, or if you’d prefer it to be non-alcoholic, don’t add anything.
Strain the hot liquid into a jug.
It will form a slight froth.
Leave for 30 minutes or until the froth has
If necessary, skim,
then divide equally between four x 170ml deep soufflé dishes or glass
Once cool, refrigerate for
5 hours, or until set.